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The Tigers can’t turn back to Jose Valverde now

Oct 11, 2012, 1:27 AM EST

Jose Valverde Getty Images

The A’s had four hits in eight innings Wednesday and then doubled their total in the ninth. Pouncing all over Jose Valverde with their season down to its last three outs, the A’s scored three runs to beat the Tigers.

In so doing, the A’s left Jim Leyland with a major dilemma: who does he call on if he has a lead in the ninth in Thursday’s Game 5?

Valverde hasn’t had his good splitter at any point in the season. He was rather successful anyway, converting 35 of 40 save chances. However, his strikeout rate took a big dive and was easily the lowest of his career. As a result, his batting average against, while still quite good at .229, was the highest mark of his career.

That Valverde remained as decent as he was in 2012 can largely be attributed to the deception in his delivery. His unique motion and release makes him pretty tough to pick up. And if he doesn’t like the matchup, he’s not afraid to work around a tough lefty to get to a righty he thinks he can handle.

But repetition isn’t Valverde’s friend at this point. The A’s saw him in September and hit him. They’ve now seen him twice in a week. If they get him yet again in Game 5, it’d be no surprise to see things again get ugly in a hurry.

Maybe Justin Verlander will make it moot. No starter in the postseason is more capable of getting 27 outs all by himself. If Verlander does need to leave after seven or eight with a lead, then the A’s may need to try mixing and matching righties Al Alburquerque and Octavio Dotel and lefty Phil Coke in the ninth. Alburquerque is the Tigers’ best reliever right now, but he’s never faced the kind of pressure he would Thursday. He also hasn’t really been tested on back-to-back days since returning from an elbow injury.

As for Joaquin Benoit, who would have been the fallback a week ago, he’s allowed runs in four of his last six appearances, and tonight may well have made it five if Brandon Moss hadn’t gotten himself out with two men on in the eighth. He could always pitch the eighth again, but he scarcely seems like a better bet than Valverde at the moment.

If Leyland does go back to Valverde in the ninth inning Thursday, it’d be sheer stubbornness. There’s no place left for that with the season on the line.

  1. cur68 - Oct 11, 2012 at 2:28 AM

    Just when you thought it was safe to root for the A’s…Verlander.

  2. gordiehowehattrick9 - Oct 11, 2012 at 6:26 AM

    Never underestimate the stubbornness of Jimmy “Smokes” Leyland! If he went back to Valverde in Game 5 it would surprise no one.

  3. mrbiz8505 - Oct 11, 2012 at 7:13 AM

    I hope the As kiss the ball on the final out tonight

  4. darthicarus - Oct 11, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    I was happy that Delmon Young wouldn’t be back on the Tigers next year…and now I’m ecstatic that Valverde won’t be brought either, or at least he shouldn’t. He had a terrible regular season & now is trying to blow the series all on his own. Good riddance Valverde you terrible turd of a pitcher.

    I’m actually expecting the worst tonight from the Tigers. Verlander is going to be too amped up & will make some mistakes and the way the Tigers anemic offense has performed against the A’s they’ll make Jarrod Parker look like Bob Gibson.

  5. pisano - Oct 11, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    While I’m a Yankee fan, I thought all along that this A’s team was the dark horse in the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if they win it all. Stranger things have happened in baseball.

  6. kitshky - Oct 11, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    Jose Valverde … couldn’t happen to a better person. Classless douche.

  7. ericellers - Oct 11, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    Looking @ the comment directly above me I couldn’t agree more.

  8. rmcd13 - Oct 11, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    In regards to Valverde’s splitter: The pitch Coco Crisp hit for the game winning RBI was an 83 mph splitter in the direct center of the strike zone, basically a high school fastball.

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